One of the first jobs of the gardening year is to start to force and chit some potatoes. Chitting means sprouting the tuber – putting it, most eyes upright, in a light, cool but frost-free place at about 50F (10C).
A garage or porch, slightly warmed by the house, is ideal. Light is important so don’t shove them off to the back of a shed. If you have only a few tubers, line them up in egg cartons. If you’re doing lots, put the tubers in shallow, open boxes, like the slatted-bottomed ones you get at the greengrocers. Divide this up with sections of folded newspaper to keep the tubers upright and slot them into that.
There is great debate about the necessity of chitting, but with early varieties it gets them off to a flying start, so we can begin the harvest by the end of June.
Stand the tubers upright and wait for strong, short green shoots to appear, about ¾in-1in long, from the eyes of each tuber. You don’t want the white, spaghetti-like things you get when potatoes are kept in the dark, but stout green and pink shoots. To maximise the size of your potatoes, rub off all but two to four shoots at the top of the tuber before planting out. If you leave all the shoots intact, there’s too much competition – you’ll end up with lots of potatoes, but they’ll all be small.